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Land and sea: Tips for pregnant travellers

Pregnant women often do their research when it comes to air travel, but what about when your holiday involves a car, coach or cruise ship? Dr Charlotte Elder, Victorian Regional Committee Chair for the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG), has valuable travel advice for mothers-to-be. If you're travelling while expecting a baby, then have a look at Cover-More's travel insurance for pregnancy to see if it would suit you. 

Land travel and pregnancy

Pregnant women have an increased risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and need to be mindful of times when they are immobile such as in a train, bus or car.

The main way to avoid DVT is:

  • Stay hydrated and make sure you’re going to the toilet every few hours – water is generally the best option, otherwise drink low sugar cordial or herbal teas.
  • Ensure you move your legs around.  

Travelling by car

While sitting in the car as a passenger, lift up on your toes, lift your toes in the air, ‘jiggle’ around, and make sure you have a rest break at least every two hours to walk around. It’s fairly common in pregnancy to have lower back or pelvic pain and sitting in one position for a prolonged period of time can make this worse.

Sitting position

Your sitting position is important in minimising injury in case of an accident. Move your seat back from the steering wheel or dashboard, as much as it is safe to do so, to reduce the risk of airbag impact. Ensure the seatbelt lap sash is worn around your hips and under your pregnancy belly. The shoulder strap should be fitted about your belly and between your breasts; it should be firm but shouldn’t be uncomfortable. 

Travelling by coach

Speak with your bus driver about mobility and rest stops before commencing a long journey. If a bus has seatbelts, it’s generally advisable to stay strapped in the seat whenever possible to avoid injury in case of an accident. Again, exercises while seated such as leaning forward, lifting your heels off the ground, or lifting your toes to your shins and stretching your legs will reduce the risk of DVT as well as wearing compression stockings.

pregnant female on dock

Travelling on the water

Pregnant women can travel by sea and but should be mindful of a few factors.

Sea sickness can worsen morning sickness, especially in the first trimester. It’s worth speaking to your doctor before you travel to discuss options for medication if you do have nausea while holidaying.

Pregnancy and cruising

If you’re planning a long trip, speak to the cruise line or boat operator beforehand and let them know you’re pregnant. Tighter restrictions can apply compared to flying.

On a cruise, check your hands are washed before eating and that food has been stored and prepared in a hygienic manner as cruise ships can be prone to outbreaks of gastro. If landing in other countries, be careful of infectious diseases and foods there as well.

Pregnant travellers should be aware that if a medical emergency arises, they may be geographically isolated from care. It is important to consider your destination of travel when pregnant.

Short boat trips and pregnancy

For short boat trips, an appropriate life vest should be worn and fitted properly, and pregnant travellers should be adequate swimmers as this can be affected by physical changes in the body. Water-skiing should be avoided while pregnant due to the chance of infection from water entering the body, as well as the potential for high impact injury. Pregnant women should not scuba dive as the pressure changes can negatively affect the unborn baby. As an alternative, snorkelling is permitted.

Travel preparation in pregnancy is key

If you’re going to be away from home for a holiday period, have a copy of your pregnancy care from your doctor or midwife along with any major results, especially if there’s been anything abnormal. It’s also useful to know your blood group and have that written down because if you experience any bleeding in pregnancy, you may need an injection of Anti-D.

Often when people are pregnant they find certain pillows more comfortable so bring those with you.

Planning rests in your travel is also very important so you can enjoy yourself; think about where you’re going to stop and ensure public toilets, restaurants or accommodation are along your route.

Top tips for pregnancy travel

Watch as Dr Will Milford provides his top travel tips for pregnant women.

Traveller’s diarrhoea

Taking probiotics regularly prior to travelling and also while away can be helpful in battling traveller’s diarrhoea, however prevention is the best approach. Be mindful not to consume foods washed with local water, only drink from freshly opened containers that have no ice, and also brush your teeth with bottled water.

Choosing a holiday destination when pregnant

As pregnancy progresses, you may not tolerate high humidity, extreme heat, high altitude and high levels of air pollution. In general, it’s advisable to delay travel to developing nations until after pregnancy.

Be mindful of what health care systems are available if you were to run into trouble. Speak to your doctor or midwife and research what’s available if problems do arise.

This also depends on your purpose of travel – if you’re visiting family and friends and they know the local system well, you might feel more relaxed about visiting an isolated destination. Otherwise it can be difficult to negotiate local hospitals.

Of course, having appropriate travel insurance that covers pregnancy is essential. Visit Cover-More’s pregnancy travel insurance page for helpful information and check out the FAQs here.

 

Dr Charlotte Elder

MBBS(Hons) BMedSci FRANZCOG IFEPAG CCPU(Advanced Early Pregnancy)

Dr Charlotte Elder is an obstetrician and gynaecologist who completed her MBBS (Hons) and BMedSci at The University of Melbourne in 2006. Charlotte has public appointments in obstetrics and gynaecology at The Royal Children’s Hospital, The Mercy Hospital for Women and Austin Health. She also has a private practice. Charlotte is passionate about women’s health and helping everyone to achieve their potential.

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